(This is part 3.)
What had I done wrong? What was my problem? Would I ever be able to go into ministry? And then, in a flash, the Spirit of God led me to 2 Corinthians 3:5…
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” (NASB)
Now, I still had Jim’s word’s floating in my mind, “Prove yourself in the marketplace,” but in a moment I heard different words, not audibly, mind you, but real nonetheless…
“What are you trying to prove? What makes you think you can prove anything?”
In the future, I would look back on this moment as another precious time in my life when the clouds parted and I saw the sun, bright and clear and distinct. Suddenly I understood. In a flash, in a moment of time, everything was absolutely different in my life.
Of course – why hadn’t I seen this before? Undoubtedly, this idea planted in my brain that I should prove myself had some logic to it, a secular logic to be sure, but logic nonetheless. But logical thinking and biblical thinking are often, not always, miles apart. The idea of “proving myself” was actually full of pride, as if I was operating alone in life.
Just suppose that I had gone on to be a 6 figure salesman or regional rental manager. Operating under the premise I had adopted, I would have assumed that I had done it, that I was able, and I would have taken this convoluted thinking into ministry. That would have been a disaster.
Moses warned the people of Israel:
“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” Deuteronomy 8:17-18a (ESV)
What makes you think you can prove anything?
For years I had labored to show myself “worthy” of ministry. Now, I understood that the only way I could ever be “worthy” would be under His power, whether that was the marketplace or ministry. I thought I needed to show myself adequate. But I had failed to remember that everything comes from Him.
2 Corinthians 3:5 was doing a work on my heart. I was not adequate, not to be a salesman or a manager, not to be a pastor, or to be a husband or a father…not to be anything. I was totally dependent on Him. And so, that day in Virginia I determined to make a change in the way I prayed. No longer would I ask God for “help”. “Help” was for bodybuilders who had done lots of repetitions but needed a friend to press the weight just one more time. “Help” was what the person asked for who was already doing 90% of the work, who just needed another 10% to get over the top. But I saw that I couldn’t even really muster 1%. I stopped asking Him to help me, and I started asking Him to enable me.
I walked that trail with a song in my heart and a glorious freedom that I hadn’t known for years. Never had I ever been more thrilled to find myself weak and unable. It was a sort of gospel déjà vu.
How so? In days to come, I would see that this Spirit-driven insight – I am unable – was simply another aspect of the gospel for day to day life. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” Colossians 2:6 (ESV) Inability was the one key insight I needed to come to faith – I am unable to live a righteous life. I am a sinner. Therefore, I am unable to please God…I need Jesus – His work on the cross and resurrection. But now I was beginning to understand that I was unable to do anything apart from Him. And just as the gospel freed me to rest in Christ’s righteousness, now this fresh view of the gospel freed me to rest in His power for everyday life. Of course, I would still need to step out and work hard in whatever He called me to do, but now I had a fresh understanding that even this stepping out was driven by His power and grace, and certainly all the results were His as well.
The greatest blessing of that day? I saw that I no longer had anything to prove.
I began to think about how I should go into ministry.